Are we close to WWIII? FBI: Russia preparing to attack United States energy infrastructure
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"This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it." - Admiral Josh Painter, The Hunt for Red October (Tom Clancy)
Are we close to World War III? Possibly.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The FBI is warning that the war in Ukraine may soon expand to cyberattacks on the United States. The bureau warns that Russian hackers are scanning for targets in the energy sector and that an attack could come soon. The problem with such attacks is they could have far-reaching, unintended consequences that will escalate the conflict.
For now, the war in Ukraine is a local affair with hostilities confined to the region. However, a broader conflict is possible, even likely. Part of that conflict is certain to include cyber warfare. In fact, limited, small-scale cyberattacks are probably already underway.
Now, the FBI is warning firms in the energy sector about "scanning activity" coming from Russian IP addresses. This means hackers operating from Russia, likely with the support and direction of the government, are looking for vulnerabilities in the energy sector. Once the order is given, these hackers could hack into critical systems, effectively shutting them down.
In some cases, a refinery or a pipeline could be shut off, or a firm might not be able to transact. In worse cases, power could be shut off to large regions across the country for an extended period of time. We could just see some supply shortages or price increases, or we could see power shut off in some regions for an extended time.
For decades, people have assumed that World War III would escalate into a nuclear exchange and end with the destruction of human civilization. However, with the advent of cyberwarfare such a scenario is less likely. Cyberwarfare delivers the ability to turn off power and water to entire cities for extended periods. Without power or water, millions of people will soon turn on each other in a battle to survive. Incredible numbers of refugees will take to the highways. The impact of this would be just as destructive as a nuclear bomb, if not more so, and it would cost very little. However, it would not cause radioactive fallout, or a nuclear retaliation.
Why risk a bomber, or expend ballistic missiles when a few keystrokes will do better? And whereas nuclear weapons are unacceptable, even to the most hawkish Russian pundits, a cyberattack is well within the realm of reason.
The possibility of such a conflict expanding to other sectors and crossing borders is significant. International markets were cast into turmoil when the Russian invasion began and that problem will become worse if the attacks are successful.
For now, all we can do is wait. The FBI and other security services will do their part, and firms in the energy sector must act now to prepare. It is very likely such an attack will occur, but whether or not it succeeds will be determined by how well the sector prepares.
it's reasonable to have faith that the energy sector is prepared. Energy is always a primary target in war. Redundancies and other backups are in place to minimize serious damage. However, one can never be entirely sure. The energy sector has never faced a sustained, coordinated cyberattack. Security could work well, redundancies and backups could minimize the impacts, or the whole system could break down for a time and prove difficult to repair.
For the rest of us, we should have resources stocked, just in case. A full tank of gas (despite the cost), some canned food, water, a battery-powered radio, and patience may be our best defense until the conflict ends. Let us pray that happens soon, and the powers involved do not escalate the conflict as feared.
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